PHEW! Pierre Verlaar’s sigh of relief was palpable. The Dutch youngster had come agonisingly close to winning the Qatar Open Amateur Championship in 2016 before India’s Rayhan Thomas gate-crashed his party with a last-hole birdie that took the tournament into play-off.
Rayhan birdied the play-off hole much to Verlaar’s dismay as the latter had to be content with a runner-up finish.
But last week, Verlaar was the only player in the field to post sub-par scores in each of the three rounds at the Doha Golf Club (DGC) and had an aggregate of six-under-par 210 which gave him a three-shot win over local boy Saleh Al Kaabi in the World Amateur Golf Ranking tournament.
Sweden’s Christofer Rahm, who had an aggregate of one-under 215, finished third.
Along with the win came the biggest bonus which eluded him last year — a direct berth to play along with pros at the European Tour’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, to be held at the same venue from January 26 to 29.
“After the heartbreak last year, it was great to win the tournament this time and get a chance to play at the Qatar Masters. The conditions were good and I’m happy with my two-under for the final round, but with some luck I could’ve had a better score,” said Verlaar, who shot 70 in each of the three rounds.
Coming from a football-mad country, one would be surprised to know Verlaar’s life revolves around the greens. By his own admission, he knows only golf for which he credits his family.
“I thank my parents and friends for supporting me and helping me chase my golf dream. I trained in Dubai to prepare for this tournament. The wind was stiff throughout, but I’m delighted with three rounds of two-under,” added Verlaar, who had impressed on his MENA Tour debut in September, when he was adjudged the top amateur at the Ascorp Golf Citizen Abu Dhabi Open.
The 18-year-old is a big fan of Rory McIlroy and, no wonder, his mannerisms have a striking resemblance to the Northern Ireland star.
At the Qatar Masters, Verlaar will get a chance to rub shoulders with some of the big names of the European Tour and he was pretty much excited about it.
“Going into the Qatar Masters, I’m really excited. But I’ll just stick to my game and won’t think about anything else,” Verlaar concluded. dsp